The British arm of Deloitte is announcing a “first of its kind” alliance with U.S. immigration law firm Berry Appleman & Leiden, as the Big Four accounting firms continue their push into legal services.
In addition to the alliance, which gives BAL access to Deloitte’s scale and expertise outside of the U.S., Deloitte UK will acquire the law firm’s non-U.S. business, which extends across eight different countries.
According to BAL managing partner Jeremy Fudge, the firm’s clients—primarily multinational corporations dealing with immigration challenges—were clamoring for the arrangement, which will take effect July 9.
“The notion of the alliance is being able to provide the very best of both organizations,” he said. “To bring together the best immigration law firm in the U.S. and the best consulting firm in the mobility space is really game-changing.”
For Deloitte, the appeal was to be able to provide heightened U.S. services to its international clients. According to Deloitte partner and global immigration specialist Kalvinder Dhillon, these clients “articulated to us again and again” the increased need for “someone in the U.S. who can provide U.S. services.”
BAL was established in San Francisco in 1980, and the firm’s office there is home to about 300 employees. But after combining two North Texas offices in March, its newly-opened location in Dallas suburb Richardson is expected to reach 320 employees in the next year.
Most of the firm’s roughly 100 attorneys are based in the U.S., where it also has offices in Houston, Austin, Boston, Northern Virginia and Washington D.C.
Globally, BAL has offices in eight different countries: the U.K., China, South Africa, Mozambique, Dubai, Australia, Singapore and Brazil.
The arrangement with Deloitte was about a year in the making.
“It was a bit like a long date,” Dhillon said.
Much of the work involved ensuring that the alliance did not run afoul of bar rules prohibiting Deloitte’s American entity from providing legal services. Deloitte U.S. is party neither to the alliance nor the acquisition of the overseas offices.
“Our primary responsibility was to make sure that the strategic alliance met those requirements,” Dhillon said.
In 2014, Deloitte entered into a similar arrangement with Canadian immigration law firm Guberman Garson, bringing the Toronto-based firm into its network of global immigration firms. The firm has grown since the tie-up, acquiring an immigration law practice in Vancouver to join existing offices in Toronto and Calgary in 2017.
At the time of the deal, Deloitte’s Canadian leadership flagged the efficiencies of having immigration attorneys able to work side by side with tax professionals on cross-border issues.
“That expertise and integration will be a key part of it for us,” Dhillon said. “We’ve learned from that experience.”
A 2017 study by ALM Intelligence warned that law firms should prepare for a “significant increase in competition” as the Big Four accounting firms continue to ramp up their legal services offerings. The report found that the Big Four’s formidable brand strength, client base and ability to offer multidisciplinary services has helped them take market share from traditional law firms.
PricewaterhouseCoopers in September launched its own U.S. law firm, ILC Legal, which does not offer U.S. law advice, but instead assists U.S. clients on international issues. The firm also acts as a marketing operation to generate work that can be referred to PwC’s existing legal services network.